Forest Bathing International Magazine, Issue 1 - Page 33

INTERVIEW WITH A GUIDE

Every issue, we turn the spotlight towards one of our many guides from all around the world to introduce ourselves to one another and bring our forest therapy family that much closer together.

Meet Jackie Kuang from California, USA

What natural sound brings you the most pleasure?

I love hearing bird songs in the morning. They make me feel excited about the day! The sound of a burbling stream is the most relaxing though. It helps me get into a meditative mood really fast.

Which invitation is the most impactful for you?

I love a lot of invitations. My consistently favorite one is Pleasures of Presence. After activating all the senses with eyes closed, opening my eyes again to see the world often makes me tear up because of the immense beauty all around me.

Where do you feel most at peace?

In my backyard, lying down on the grass, staring up at green tree canopies, blue sky, and white clouds, meanwhile having my cat curled up next to me offering quiet company.

What is something you bring on every nature walk?

Water? Sunhat? Snacks? Check, check, check. Something else I bring is childlike joy.

What needs to be talked about more in the forest therapy movement?

Good question! Most people talk about the plethora of health benefits of forest therapy. That’s not unimportant. However, I think that more needs to be said about building and maintaining a reciprocal relationship between humans and the more-than-human world. I believe that only a reciprocal relationship can be truly sustainable. If humans solely focus on how to benefit from the more-than-human world without taking care of it, respecting it, and truly loving it, then someday, maybe very soon, we will have nothing to take advantage of anymore. A stream told me one day that there’s actually no separation between us and the world. We are the world. We are walking Earth.

Have you ever talked to a tree? What did it say?

Which one? LOL! I’ve talked to many trees. They never really “say” anything, but I get messages often. One mother tree invited me to “play in her arms”, so I climbed her with bare feet. One time as I was humming while walking between two trees, I felt some vibrations and then they gave me lyrics to my melody. The words were “I love you, till forever”. Another time I told a tree that I’ll always walk with her and immediately I received the message “we will always walk with you.” I have more examples and if I keep going, you’ll run out of space.

Where’s your favorite place to go in Nature?

If I lived close enough to an ocean, I’d definitely go to the beach often. I love watching the ebb and flow of the ocean. In my imagination, it’s the rise and fall of Mother Earth’s chest and the sound of the waves is the sound of her breath. Maybe that’s why many people play ocean sounds in order to fall asleep. For now, my favorite place to sit is on a bench by Baldwin Lake at the Los Angeles County Arboretum and Botanical Gardens. Right behind the bench are three giant Montezuma Cypress trees that feel like guardians. As I sit and gaze at the lake, watching the ducks, turtles, or geese doing their thing, while hearing the birds sing or the leaves rustle or other humans gleefully chatter as they take their stroll, there’s a deep sense of satisfaction that the world is as it should be—a home and playground for all beings.

What have you learned the hard way that other guides could benefit from?

Where do I begin? I learned that the more we let fear in, the more fiercely fear will occupy our mind. One time as I went into a canyon to scout a trail, I started to think about the “what ifs”. “What if a bear shows up and attacks me?” “What if a bad guy shows up and attacks me?” “What if an unknown beast shows up and attacks me?” The more I thought, the more I got spooked. Every little rustling sound in the bushes got me to stop and to consider turning back. Until at one point my eyes imagined my worst fear materializing right in front of me—a bear coming around the bend towards me. My heart skipped a beat and I felt myself ready to jump out of my skin. I mustered up all my strength, raised up my arms and belted a huge “ROAR!!!” The “bear” turned out to be a dog (scared by my behavior) and his owner turned out to be a really nice gentleman apologizing to me profusely. So be cautious and stay safe, but don’t let fear dominate your mind.

What’s your personal motto?

Nicole Daspit shared this one time and I loved it so much I’ve adopted it as my own motto: Open hearts see love everywhere.

What are you noticing?

Right now? I’m noticing my dear husband sleeping peacefully while I’m typing this up at our Airbnb stay. I’m noticing how beautiful it is to love and to be loved.

Jackie can be found at shinrinyokuhealing.com – sign up for her AirBnB experience Forest Bathing with “Jiaozi" Dumplings!

As a certified nature and forest therapy guide with the Association of Nature and Forest Therapy Guides and Programs, Jackie loves guiding people for an immersive experience in Nature. She also loves teaching others how to make certain Chinese food, including dumplings. So she combined her two passions and launched a successful AirBnB Experience called “Forest Bathing with Jiazi Dumplings” in the spring of 2018. Born and raised in rural China, Jackie spent a lot of time outdoors as a child, helping her grandmother gather firewood and following her grandfather around as he raised buffaloes. She came to the United States as a PhD candidate in 1990 and made Los Angeles her home after completing her studies. Besides leading forest therapy walks, Jackie also does translation work and advocates for her autistic son Chris. She guides in San Gabriel Valley, primarily at the LA Arboretum and Monrovia Canyon Park, and is also a trainer of guides and mentor with ANFT.

Jackie can be found at www.shinrinyokuhealing.com, and sign up for her AirBnB experience Forest Bathing with “Jiaozi" Dumplings.